One of the first 64-bit Ultrasparc machines Sun Microsystems made, the Sun Ultra 2 is a fairly powerful workstation. This is a multiprocessor capable machine, with slots for two Ultrasparc or Ultrasparc II processor, and is easily capable of handling most modern desktop needs. Though it is not capable of running the latest 3D games, it is more than enough to run most day-to-day applications, such as web browsers, word processors, and media players.

Technical Specifications:

  • Sun Part Number: 600-3776-01
  • Model Number: Depends on initial configuration. The first digit of the model number refers to the number of processors the machine had when it was new. Model numbers beginning with one had one processor, model numbers beginning with two had two processors. The last three digits referred to the speed of the original CPUs. If the last three digits were 170, the machine had a 167 Mhz processor, a model number with 200 had a 200 Mhz processor, and a model number with 300 had a 300 Mhz processor
  • System Type: Sun UPA/Sparc64
  • Processor: Slots for 2 Ultrasparc series processors. The typical baseline Ultra 2 system will have one or two 180 or 200 MHZ Ultrasparc I series processors. This system is incapable of utilizing any Ultrasparc 3 or greater processor
  • Memory: Up to 16 128MB DIMMs, upgradable in groups of 4, for a total of 2GB. Minimum memory configuration is 4 16MB DIMMs for a total of 64MB.
  • Video: Proprietary connector for framebuffer card. Usually, a Creator or Creator 3D type framebuffer is found on these systems. These cards are very difficult to get in place, so you may have to do some fiddling to get it to fit.
  • Floppy: Bay for standard Sun-type floppy.
  • Hard Drives: 2 bays for SCA style SCSI hard drives. These drives are mounted on drive sleds for faster insertion and removal.
  • Audio capabilities: Integrated Crystal Semiconductor CS-4231 sound chip. This system has integrated phono style microphone, line in, line out, and headphone jacks.
  • Expansion:
    • 1 5 1/4" drive bay, usually occupied by a CD-Rom drive.
    • 4 SBus expansion slots. These are all standard SBus slots, and are capable of running most SBus cards, including expansion buses, FDDI adapters, and gigabit ethernet cards.
  • External ports:

Using an Ultra 2

Unlike earlier Sun boxes, such as the Sparcstation IPC or the Sun 3/80, the Ultra 2 series will run the vast majority of modern software. With a decent amount of memory, this machine will run mozilla just fine, and will even run modern desktop environments such as KDE or Gnome without problem. As this is an SBus machine, it is somewhat difficult upgrading this system compared to the later PCI-based Ultra systems. Just stay away from modern 3d-intensive graphics, however, and this system is quite usable for everyday usage.

OSes that'll run on an Ultra 2

Pretty much any modern Unix or Unix-like operating system, such as Linux will run on an Ultra 2. Solaris, of course, is the most obvious choice for this machine, and is the one that is guaranteed to be 100% compatible with the hardware. Many Linux distributions such as Debian have a difficult time with the video drivers needed to run X on this machine, so it may take some messing with the settings to get it working properly; usually the solution to these problems is disabling DRI support in X. Older versions of NetBSD and OpenBSD do not support the integrated SCSI controller found on this machine, so it is highly recommended that you stick to the later versions of both operating systems. OpenBSD 3.1 and NetBSD 1.6 both fully support this system.

Where can I get an Ultra 2?

These are a fairly modern system, so it is entirely possible that you can find them for sale at computer surplus shops, electronics flea markets, auctions, and yes, that internet garage sale known as ebay. The systems you will find are usually of modest specification - usually you'll find systems with 200 megahertz processors and 256MB of RAM. Do not be tempted to purchase the barebones systems that looks like a bargain. Though it is relatively easy to find Ultrasparc processors for a fairly inexpensive price, the memory is extremely costly; oftentimes, new memory will cost $400 for 256 Megabytes. Thus it's much more worth it to spend the extra $50 for a system with memory pre-installed.

This is a very nice system for someone who really wants to learn about Unix hardware. It's relatively quick, so you won't be sitting there twiddling your thumbs, waiting for the system to finish, and is also inexpensive enough that you can purchase one without breaking the bank. While the older Sparc-based suns do have a certain charm to them and are useful for things like a small mail server, this is a serious machine and is useful if you want to do serious day to day work. It's an extremely well-built machine, and I recommend one if you really want to learn how machines other than PCs or Macs work.